Currently, 162 out of the 819 political prisoners being held in various detention facilities nationwide are women — brave women who have fought for their political beliefs and their communities and are now languishing behind bars due to trumped-up criminal charges.
We cannot stay silent while our sisters suffer. Tanggol Bayi stands in solidarity with them and demands freedom for all political prisoners, especially those who are ailing, elderly and long-detained women political prisoners. They are activists who long to rejoin the mainstream of the people’s struggle. But they are also mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters, and their families are suffering without them.
As we mark Women’s Month, let us raise our voices and demand freedom and justice for the women political prisoners, including the following:
• Adora Faye de Vera, 66, arrested on August 24, 2022. Jailed, raped and tortured under the Marcos Sr. dictatorship, the martial law survivor is again behind bars in Iloilo on trumped-up charges of murder and multiple frustrated murder.
• Presentacion Saluta, 63, arrested on January 29, 2023 in General Santos City. Released barely five years ago after the dismissal of the trumped-up charges against her, she faces a new round of manufactured cases based on planted evidence and the perjured testimonies of witnesses.
• Cleofe Lagtapon, 65, arrested on March 24, 2019 in Liliw, Laguna. She is awaiting the verdict on the trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives she faces before a Taguig City court, but she must hurdle many other made-up cases in Negros and Bohol.
• Ma. Fe Serrano, 66, arrested in Parañaque City in April 2022. She faces more than a dozen trumped-up cases, including one under the draconian Anti-Terrorism Act.
• Evangeline Rapanut, 72, arrested in Dasmariñas City, Cavite on May 31, 2022. A former Methodist deaconess, she faces several bogus charges including two counts of murder, frustrated murder, robbery and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
• Ge-ann Perez, 24, arrested on March 24, 2019 in Liliw, Laguna. A survivor of Hansen’s disease, she is in constant danger of relapse due to the harsh conditions in detention. She faces trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
• Renalyn Tejero, 27, arrested on March 21, 2021 in Cagayan de Oro City. Karapatan’s regional coordinator for Caraga, she has been red-tagged and falsely accused of being an NPA guerrilla and slapped with trumped-up charges of murder and multiple attempted murder.
• Glendyl Malabanan was arrested in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on October 4, 2019. A member of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog’s regional staff, she had just come from a fact-finding mission when arrested. She faces trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives based on planted evidence.
• Frenchie Mae Cumpio, 24, arrested in Tacloban City on February 8, 2020. The community journalist is facing trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violation of the Anti-Terror Financing Act.
• Rowena Rosales, 51, arrested on August 11, 2018 in Balagtas, Bulacan. The former COURAGE government union organizer faces trumped-up charges of murder, arson and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
• Grace Verzosa, 35, was arrested on June 28, 2013 in Marikina City, while caring for her three-month old child. An artist and researcher turned peasant organizer, she was arrested on warrants that did not bear her name, and faces multiple counts of trumped-up charges of robbery, homicide and illegal possession of explosives. Jailed for close to ten years now, she is the longest-held woman political prisoner.
• Arlene Panea, 34, arrested March 22, 2014 in Aloguinsan, Cebu. A caregiver, she was arrested without warrant and slapped with trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. In less than three weeks, Arlene will have been jailed for nine years. She is the second-longest held woman political prisoner.
• Virginia Villamor, who will be 69 this April, was arrested November 8, 2018 in Quezon City. She was arrested without warrant and slapped with trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. She is hypertensive, suffers from a serious case of vertigo and has difficulty walking since figuring in a vehicular accident prior to her arrest.
• Alexandrea Pacalda, 28, arrested on September 14, 2019 in General Luna, Quezon. A former human rights worker with Karapatan, she was a peasant organizer when arrested. She was deprived of food and sleep for more than two days and coerced into signing an affidavit of voluntary surrender. She faces trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
It is deplorable that Alexandrea Pacalda had been wrongly convicted on March 13, 2023 on the fabricated charges against her. We support Pacalda’s intent to appeal the decision of the Lucena City Regional Trial Court Branch 56.
These women political prisoners deserve justice. They deserve freedom.
The fight for women’s rights goes hand in hand with the struggle for human and people’s rights. Together, let us work to forge a future where everyone, women and men, can live free from fear and oppression.